By Riley Gentry, Staff Writer —
UTC has added rules and guidelines, specific to this university, regarding the 41 faculty and staff allowed by law to carry a concealed weapon on campus.
In 2016, Tennessee passed a law allowing full-time faculty and staff, who have a concealed-carry permit, to carry handguns on college campuses.
The law, as stated by the Tennessee General Assembly, reads, “As enacted, permits full-time employees of state public colleges or universities who possess handgun carry permit to carry a handgun while on property owned, operated, or controlled by the employing college or university if certain requirements are met. – Amends TCA Title 39 and Title 49.”
If caught with an illegal gun on campus, a person can be charged with a Class E felony, which carries the possibility of one to six years in jail and up to a $3,000 fine.
In order for a faculty or staff member to carry on campus, they have to meet with UTC Chief of Police Robert Ratchford.
Ratchford said that anyone who wants to carry has to meet with him and only him, so they can be vetted to carry a concealed weapon on campus.
“We give them a form to fill out and we verify that they are full-time, that they are not enrolled in any on-site classes, and that they have their valid handgun carry permit,” Ratchford said.
Around 41 faculty or staff are vetted to carry a concealed weapon on campus, according to Ratchford, but that doesn’t mean they always do. Those individuals have the right to but are not required to carry every day.
Ratchford said there are specific places and instances where faculty and staff, who do carry, are not allowed to.
“You cannot carry at university sponsored events like Commencement,” Ratchford said. “If you are down here on campus in your daily activities, you are authorized to do so.”
There are also specific guidelines as to how to carry a weapon, which include the weapon being on your person or within reach. Faculty and staff must keep the gun with them at all times.
Connor Fay, a business management major from Nashville, Tenn., sees the benefit in university faculty members being allowed to carry guns on campus.
“Personally, I feel safer if I knew that a trained faculty member with a license to carry has a gun around,” Fay said.
Jay Hennebaul, a political science major from Atlanta, Georgia, felt differently about the matter.
“I’m ok with it, but I believe we should honestly have more security on campus. As long as they make their students aware, I’m fine with it,” Hennebaul said.
Hennebaul also said he thinks if a teacher carries then they should let the students know they carry.
Fay disagreed with this and thought that anyone who carries should conceal their weapon enough to where students wouldn’t know who did and did not carry.
Chief Ratchford added that students aren’t allowed to know if a faculty or staff member carries. He said, “This is strictly a tool for self-defense.”
All information regarding who carries a weapon on campus is strictly confidential between Ratchford and the individual. If a faculty member who carries is asked if they do, then they have the right to dismiss the question.